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Standing proudly at the entrance to the French industrial town of Le Creusot, in the region of Bourgogne in the eastern part of the country, is a colossal Creusot steam hammer built more than a century ago. Being a former mining town whose economy is now dominated by multi-national metallurgical companies, the steam hammer is Le Creusot’s main attraction.

The steam hammer defined the industrial age. It is a massive machine that can deliver powerful blows to iron ingots and give them large shapes that was previously impossible using manual power and hand-held hammers. The possibility of using steam to drive a hammer was first suggested by James Watt, whose invention, the Watt steam engine, drove the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. James Watt filed a patent in 1784, but it wasn’t until 1840 that the first working steam hammer was built to meet the needs of forging increasingly large iron or steel components.

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Steam hammer used for forging steel at the Midvale Steel Company, c. 1905. Photo credit: explorepahistory.com

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